Have you ever poured milk onto your toast? Put your phone in the fridge? Decided to bake bread in the middle of the night? Walked into a room then wondered why you were there? Chances are, you've got a new baby! Christine Nikiel examines the peculiar behaviour common to the sleep-deprived parent.
Sleep deprivation – the chronically fragmented, restricted ‘rest’ time from which parents with new babies suffer, some for months, others for years - can be responsible for a range of illogical actions and decisions that, in hindsight, border on insanity*. Not getting enough of the good, healthy sleep decreases our cognitive abilities, meaning our reaction times, alertness, working memory, communication abilities – basically our ability to think straight - are all impaired.
And you know that sleep deprivation is actually a form of torture, right?
When I was breastfeeding my newborns I remember waking in panic thinking the baby was in the bed and I’d smothered her. It always turned out I was holding my pillow. When I had a toddler (and a baby), I needed to blow the toddler’s nose, but held the tissue to my husband’s nose while looking at my little girl and telling her to ‘blow’ (my daughters love this story!). Another time I tried to put a bib on my mum who was holding the baby on her lap. And once after finishing a 3am feed, I decided to *stay up and bake bread in the bread maker. The fuzzy logic of that decision was that it would save us money, but because I forgot to turn it to the right setting, it didn’t.
So beware, sleep deprived new parents may be living near you. Some may even venture out. But it's most likely that they're at home, half-dressed and eating cereal from their cup of coffee, wondering what day it is, and when they can go to bed.
I canvassed some mums about the strange things they did when they were sleep deprived (names are withheld, you'll see why).
I remember popping the top of a vitamin bottle in my mouth and the vitamin back in the bottle.
I picked up my baby upside down! I still can't wrap my head around how I did it, logistically.
My cat fell asleep next to me and I tried to breastfeed it.
I went to pull a bottle out of the refrigerator and in my sleep-deprived state, I deposited my phone in there instead. 20 minutes later I was running around the house frantically looking for it. Luckily, my husband found it when he went in there to grab stuff for lunch.
I once stopped at a red light, saw the light for the cross traffic change to green, and drove right into the intersection.
I lost my coffee pot in the middle of the night and couldn't find it, only to locate it later in the cupboard. Full of coffee.
I walked out of my apartment and into the communal laundry room down the hall with my robe open, breasts out.
We went to the zoo when my youngest was born, and my husband bought a ticket for a little ship cruise. He gave me the ticket. I wanted to blow my nose, and next thing I know I'm standing in front of the trash can with a used handkerchief in my hands and no ticket…
My daughter was eight weeks old. It was 3 in the morning. She had colic, so you can imagine how it had been for me. We were lying together in the guest room on the bed, and I looked at her and said, dead seriously and perhaps a tad too loudly, ‘What do you want from me?’ (She didn't answer.)
I dropped a lot of things.
Right after my son came home from the hospital after 73 days in the NICU -- we were both sleep deprived because he had a hard time adjusting to life without bright lights and constant noise. He finally fell asleep so I took a shower. After I got out I went to check on him. Couldn't find him. Checked the bassinet, etc. I started to totally freak out and then I looked in the crib. He was in there. Duh.
In the first two months, I woke up multiple times clutching my pillow, convinced the pillow was the baby. A couple of times, I even got out of bed with the pillow and started walking around our apartment, cuddling and bouncing it. All while half-asleep.
I stuffed a pacifier in the toddler's mouth attempting to make the infant stop screaming (wrong kid, whoops!)
My husband tried to put the pacifier in my mouth once. Totally out of exhaustion. He was looking at the baby but his hand went to my mouth.
My husband carefully picked up his pillow and cradled it for a few steps when he heard my daughter crying in the night, then he realised it was just a pillow and dropped it.
I made a bunch of muffins before I had the baby and froze them so I'd have something quick to warm up and eat. But I had the darnedest time peeling the paper muffin cups off the frozen muffins before putting them in the toaster oven, which I was convinced I needed to do or they'd catch on fire. I did this for weeks before my husband pointed out that paper burns at 451°F, and it is actually baked with the muffins in the paper cups. It blew my mind.
I wore adult diapers. For a week.
I don't remember one damned thing from the entire first year of having triplets.
I left the water on all the time. Sometimes I'd walk into the kitchen or bathroom, turn the water on and immediately walk away having already forgot why I was there. It would be 30 minutes later when I'd finally hear it running.
I had a recurring middle-of-the-night delusion that my daughter was a boy. Like, she would wake me with her cries and I would think, "Oh, he must want to nurse again - wait, no, she's a girl"